Skip to main content
Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

08 March 2024

Excellencies, distinguished participants,

On behalf of ESCAP, and together with Sarah Knibbs, Deputy Regional Director of UN Women, it is a great pleasure to welcome you to the Asia-Pacific Regional Commemoration of International Women’s Day 2024.

I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to UN-Women for their partnership in co-organizing this commemoration, as well as to the Women Ambassadors Group and the United Nations family for organizing the “Ambassador for a Day” initiative.

This year's theme, ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress,’ serves as a compelling call to action. Indeed, today marks a beacon of hope and a testament to what we can achieve together for women’s empowerment.

Our collective efforts here today and every day are not just an investment in women and girls but a foundation for prosperous, inclusive societies. The path we pave today leads to a brighter, more equitable future for all.

The Asia-Pacific region has witnessed significant progress in empowering women and girls. We celebrate the increased presence of women in senior positions across both private and public sectors and applaud the rising number of female entrepreneurs and women participating in the digital economy.

Such advancements are crucial milestones on our journey towards gender equality.

However, our journey is met with persistent challenges that underscore its complexity. Despite global progress towards eradicating poverty and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 1, poverty persists as a significant challenge worldwide.

As of 2019, almost 9 per cent of the global population live on less than $1.90 a day. And poverty disproportionately affects women.

A significant factor contributing to this gender gap is the unjust burden of unpaid care and domestic work undertaken by women. In the region, women dedicate, on average, up to 11 hours each day to these tasks—over four times more than men.

This imbalance significantly limits the type and quality of work opportunities available to them.

At the same time, discriminatory policies and deep-rooted social norms continue to create barriers to full economic participation and empowerment of women and girls.

In Asia and the Pacific, the female labour force participation rate has been declining.

In 2023, it was only 44 per cent, below the world average. Moreover, women and girls face greater limitations in accessing key resources than men. They are also hindered by legal and social barriers to owning property or taking out loans, further restricting their opportunities to start up and grow their own businesses.

We need to scale up investment to address the existing and widening disparities that prevent women and girls from realizing their full potential. And we need to take immediate action to provide robust policy support and innovative solutions.

Excellencies, distinguished participants,

Let us strive to create a world where the inequalities of the past have no place in the present.

To achieve this in the Asia-Pacific region, we need to:

Firstly, develop and implement effective economic and social policies that bridge the gap between gender and economic inequality.

It is encouraging to see Cambodia, for example, under the Social Protection Policy Framework, extend its National Social Security Fund to the informal economic sector. As this is where most women work, this expanded coverage effectively supports women in the workforce.

We must also strengthen national institutions and governance, reform the financial architecture and commit to new means of investing in gender equality.

Integrating Gender-Responsive Budgeting and planning into the design of fiscal and monetary policies is essential. Working with the private sector, we need to support the shift from investment for profit to investment for impact.

Timor-Leste’s Gender Responsive Budgeting Policy and Bangladesh's establishment of a National Advisory Board for Impact Investment are promising practices in this regard.

And finally, we must develop innovative strategies that recognize and value women's unpaid care and domestic work.

A compelling example comes from the Philippines, where a recent national consultation on valuing unpaid care and domestic work led to recommendations that informed the drafting of a provincial care ordinance. This ordinance is poised to be integrated into local legislation following a final public hearing in early 2024.

Today, we will hear more from the panel speakers, who will share their inspiring stories and initiatives that contribute to advancing gender equality, economic empowerment and the overall well-being of women and girls in the Asia-Pacific region.

We place gender equality at the heart of our work and will be convening the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action on the occasion of its 30th anniversary in November this year, in collaboration with UN Women.

This conference aims to accelerate action towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, emphasizing the critical importance of investing in women as a pathway to progress.

Together, we can create a future where women and girls are not just included but truly empowered at every level of economic engagement and every part of our society.

Thank you very much.

Print this article


Social Development +66 2 288-1234 [email protected]